Photo courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Program

Restoring the Octoraro Reservoir

Better Conservation, Cleaner Water

The Alliance, the Octoraro Watershed Association, and partners are working to provide resources to Plain Sect Farmers to implement necessary conservation practices on their farms to improve the highly polluted ground and surface waters that feed Octoraro Reservoir, a drinking water source for over 250,000 residents in Pennsylvania.

The Alliance has led the creation of the Octoraro Source Water Collaborative, a partnership of local stakeholders, agency and municipal officials and farmers that develop and maintain strategic actions to restore the watershed and reservoir.

The Alliance has been working with the Octoraro Watershed Association and Technical Service Providers (TSP) to efficiently provide local farmers the financial support they need to implement conservation plans and practices. Through a National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reductions (INSR) grant, the Alliance has been able to provide 50% of the cost of water-quality-improving conservation practices and 100 percent of any conservation planning that may be needed for a farming operation.

The goal is to reduce high nitrate concentrations in ground and surface waters in the contributing recharge watersheds of the Octoraro Reservoir by conducting outreach to the Plain Sect communities in the Octoraro Creek Watershed and supporting the implementation of upstream agricultural best management practices (BMP) on predominantly Plain Sect farm in Lancaster and Chester Counties

Did you know?

  • The Octoraro Creek Watershed is one of the greatest nitrogen polluters in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
  • Agriculture is the most dominant land use in the Octoraro Creek Watershed, making up 74% of the landscape.
  • The entire Octoraro Creek Watershed covers 208 square miles.

The majority of farmers (70%) in the Octoraro Creek Watershed are Plain Sect farmers who use traditional farming practices, including conventional tillage and high manure application.

Agricultural BMPs implemented in this watershed thus have the potential to substantially reduce sediment and nutrients entering local streams and the Susquehanna River.

Our Impact

With the funding provided by NFWF, the Octoraro Source Water Collaborative has implemented a total of:


conservation and nutrient management plans


manure storage facilities


heavy use area protections


barnyard stabilizations

In addition, the program has implemented a number of other best management practices and helped funding cover crop seeds for approximately 764 acres of land. Recently, the NFWF awarded another $500,000 to the collaborative that will help continue the work in the Octoraro watershed. Farmers are already signing up to receive funds to implement ag BMP.